Celebrating Black History Through Music

Motown sensations the Temptations joined President George W. Bush in the White House yesterday, to help celebrate National Black History Month. Bush, in his annual speech at the event, touched on how the group, which first formed in 1960, "continues bringing Americans of all races together, to this day."

Bush honored the group's leader, Otis Williams, and credited Williams and the Temptations with having helped to pave the way for other black artists with their success. "The music of the Temptations has given countless Americans sunshine on a cloudy day — and we can't help ourselves from loving them," Bush said.

President Bush, lower right, first lady Laura Bush and others listen as members of the Temptations, R&B Motown singers, perform in the East Room of the White House during a ceremony celebrating Black History Month.

The Temptations are among a long list of influential black musicians who have performed in the White House over the years. Soprano Marie "Selika" Williams was the first, in 1878, when she performed for President Rutherford B. Hayes. Other talented black musicians have since made their mark in presidential history.

Pioneering pianist Ray Charles entertained the past seven administrations.

President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton present Charles with a National Medal of Arts, the nation's most prestigious art award, on Oct. 7, 1993.

The jazz legend Lionel Hampton, who received the National Medal of Arts in 2001, has also performed many times for U.S. presidents over the past half century. Clinton hosted Hampton's 90th birthday party in 1998.

President Clinton joins Hampton, right, at the request of the musician, for a jam session in the East Room of the White House at the soiree for the jazz great.

Bebop innovator Dizzie Gillepsie was also an Arts Medal winner in 1989. Bush said that Gillepsie "was one of the greatest black musicians to visit the White House."

President Jimmy Carter is shown with Gillespie and drummer Max Roach in singing a version of Gillespie's tune "Salt Peanuts" at the White House jazz concert in 1978.

Female black musicians have also had their share of time in the presidential spotlight. President Franklin Roosevelt invited Marian Anderson to give a private concert at the White House for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain in 1939. The gifted mezzo-soprano performed "Ave Maria."

Opera singer Anderson performs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Another skilled vocalist, the "first lady of song," Ella Fitzgerald, wowed the White House with her jazzy vocal stylings.

President Ronald Reagan presents Fitzgerald with the National Arts Medal at the White House in 1987.

Singer Stevie Wonder added his superstar power to a performance with British singer Sir Elton John in 1998.

President Clinton thanks the duo after they perform at an official dinner in honor of Great Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, left.

The musicians received a standing ovation from the more than 200 VIP guests. Clinton remarked, "I wish I could give Stevie a knighthood."

Gospel singer Aretha Franklin has added her share of soul to the White House, as well.

Franklin performs at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 1999.

Another influential jazz musician, Duke Ellington, might not have been quite as intimidated by the presidential surroundings when he had the opportunity to perform at the White House. Ellington's father worked as a butler in the White House.

Ellington shares a laugh with President Nixon at the musician's 70th birthday party in 1969.

Nixon also presented Ellington with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Blues great B.B. King, left, brought along a gift, a guitar, for Bush, when he performed at the White House during a celebration of Black Music Month in 2006.

President Bush, with his gift in hand, praises King's performance in the East Room.

At Tuesday's Black History Month celebration, Bush quoted Temptation Otis Williams, who once said, "The highest achievement for me has been ... to have our music penetrate all kinds of barriers — for it to be colorless."

The legacy of these artists has shown the ability of music to not only penetrate, but unite.